How much does it cost to develop an app? It is challenging for any app developer to provide an accurate cost for app development.
Not all apps are equal. Apps with a similar number of screens may have different complexities within them. Is your app going to collect and crunch data? Is it a sales tool or an internal tool? These are just a few questions that will ultimately affect the level of complexity, the number of screens and the amount of polish required for the UI/UX of your app.
Based on our experience and industry research, an app, on average, costs between $50,000 – $300,000 depending on the complexity and number of screens, whether it’s an MVP, final product or a game.
App development costs can range from
$30,000 – $80,000 for MVPs, Prototypes and Proof of Concepts
$80,000 – $150,000 for larger apps that expand upon MVPs, Prototypes and Proof of Concepts.
$150,000 – $300,000 for more feature-rich apps or basic games
$300,000 for larger apps with more complexity or more feature-rich and engaging 2D or 3D games
Some complex Apps can have a budget of millions of dollars.
“How much does it cost to build app?” It is, by far, the most asked question whenever we meet with clients.
Instead of providing the cliche answer of “how long is a piece of string”, we try to explain that it all depends on the complexity, features, the number of screens, and polish required.
Custom app development is not off-the-shelf. You’re getting something bespoke created for you based on your idea. It is unique and one-of-a-kind.
Let’s think of building an app in terms of building a house. We may be able to provide a very rough ballpark after some discussion and understanding of what you want, similar to you visiting a display home.
Once you’re done visiting display homes, you know what you would like. Then, it’s time to talk to the sales team.
Suppose your first question is, “what will it cost?” In that case, their answer will be “it will cost X dollars”. But, that’s because they’re selling a product that can be customised. Then they will need to begin gathering requirements to understand your exact needs. Do you have land? Does the land have a slope? Do you know if the land is in a rocky area? What restrictions does the land have? Do you know if you would like to change anything? What other additions would you like? What will be the facade style? What handles do you want on the doors?
You can quickly see how the price will change based on answers to those questions. It’s very similar to custom app development. Unless you know your app’s exact requirements and features and can explain them in a way that helps the developers design your app, it isn’t easy to put a price out there.
It’s impossible to say that an app or system will cost you USD $499,327.22 and provide a quote that is relevant and accurate. It doesn’t work that way.
We have used our experience to create the DevReady Process. The process has gone through years of refinement and has been used to develop apps for multiple clients successfully.
The DevReady Process allows us to explore the risks and understand what is involved and what needs to be done technically. This then allows us to get a clear picture of what actually needs to happen. Based on that, we can provide you with a relevant budget and cost for building your app. To find out more about our proven DevReady process see https://aerion.com.au/devready/
There are many factors that affect the cost of developing software.
The type of app you will develop affects your app development cost. Are you building a game? Is it 2D or 3D? Is it an e-Commerce solution? Is it a self-help portal for customers, an internal tool to speed up efficiencies, or are you developing a new product that offers value to customers through some other means?
As you can see, these are all very different kinds of apps.
Each of these will require different designs and functionality. Games and Apps that gather and crunch a lot of data will generally be more expensive than the other kinds of apps.
Complexity can be introduced into any app, be it big or small. And that complexity affects the cost.
The complexity of your app’s functionality will impact the cost of building it, no matter how small or large the app is.
You may have a small app with a few screens. But, what happens on those screens can be super complex. If that is the case then the cost of building it will increase.
Think about games. They only have a few screens. However, they are very complex. So, the amount of screens is not as important as the complexity.
When we say complexity we mean:
Any of these pieces of functionality require careful thought and planning. This helps ensure that they are executed well, and provide value to customers in addition to being slick and engaging with customers.
On its own, the number of screens will only affect the cost when each screen performs one action.
If you take the following scenario, you want to manage a piece of data within an app. Let’s call it a “Company Object”.
To achieve the management of this piece of data, you would need to:
To achieve the above functionality, we need to implement four or five (depending on how the delete action is implemented) separate screens or views. Each of these views has at least one API call to execute or perform the action. Update has two: one to retrieve the data and the other to update the data. So, now we have five screens and five API calls to make. Assuming that each screen in an app has at least one API call, we can see how the cost would increase as the number of screens increases.
Suppose the functionality in each screen rises outside of the basic functionality, such as using an API call to retrieve data to operate within a dropdown or GeoLocating an address or uploading an image. In that case, the number of screens and complexity can drive up the cost of building an app.
These few extra functions are all something that could easily be associated with a Company Object plus many more depending on what your app does.
The device you will create your app for also impacts the cost. Are you targeting mobile devices only or tablets as well? Will it be iPhone or Android or both?
Depending on the technology used to develop the app, different costs will be attributed.
A Native Application will effectively double the budget if you were to release it on both iPhone and Android. This happens because each app is coded in a different language. Also finding actual developers who can create apps in both native languages apps would be difficult, that’s why agencies and businesses have teams of developers.
A Cross Platform App would be about 1.3x – 1.5x the cost of a single app as you’re only writing the code for the app once but could spend time adjusting the UI to be platform specific.
A Hybrid App would effectively be the cost of one app as you build the app using web technologies and an App Shell to get your web app on the app store.
While it’s a minor cost, did you know that you have to pay to get your app on the App Store or Google Play?
Suppose, you don’t purchase your developer licence. In that case, the app can either be submitted under your developer’s accounts or through an enterprise deployment (if it’s not made for the general public).
Information on the Apple Developer Program can be found on this page [Apple Developer Program – Apple Developer]. The price to enrol in the Apple Developer program is USD 99 per year. This allows uploading apps to the App Store and more.
A Google Developer Account is a once-off fee of USD 25. More information about their program can be found on this page [Creating a developer account (google.com)]. This allows you to upload apps to Google Play and more.
There are many unconsidered costs in app development outside of building the app itself. Generally, people fail to consider these costs.
Unless you’re developing a completely standalone app, hosting is most likely something your development needs. It is required to provide centralisation and APIs used by your platforms.
While the initial costs can be low, they can increase with the number of users using your app or depending on the complexity of the code and processing that needs to take place.
We’ve now wholly entered the age of the Cloud, and are using AWS or GCP. There are various options for purchasing your hosting, e.g. pay-as-you-use or upfront.
A pay-as-you-use model might sound ridiculous as you won’t know your costs. It is also challenging to manage. Pay-as-you-go can also save costs, as when resources are under-utilised or not utilised, you don’t pay for them. You only pay for what you use.
On the other hand, if you were to pay upfront, you would know your costs but could have resources allocated when they aren’t used.
Which model you pick will depend on your development and how it’s deployed.
When you physically build something there is always routine maintenance that happens. Things get worn out over time and need to be repaired or updated. The same applies to software. Any development that has occurred will require maintenance. Things don’t get worn out, but they do get updated or deprecated.
Any library, framework or plugin will be updated in their schedules outside of your app development schedule. This will need to be factored in.
These updates provide security fixes, performance improvements and new functionality that you can leverage.
Best practice should be to factor in a maintenance budget and always stay up to date with these so that you don’t let your software get too far behind. There are many reasons for maintenance.
Most products you buy have support. Whether you use it or not is a different story. But, the people creating the product must support it.
You have to provide support and information to your users. Bugs etc should be covered through the developer’s warranty.
Still, there will be times when users will have issues, and you need to have avenues available to resolve their issues and get them the help they need.
Even though your developers offer support, there will also be times when there are issues that are out of scope or out of warranty. They will need to be worked on to minimise the impact on the system.
Look at our article describing how your software can be supported, What is Software Support?
This is another crucial aspect when beginning a project. What sort of budget you can allocate will change the quality and type of assets you can purchase or create.
The best option is always the fully customised Logo, Branding and App designs. However, these are costly. If you can afford to get full-blown branding, logo and app designs etc designed for you, then go for it. It will differentiate your app from the others and provide you with your distinctive look and feel; your brand.
If you can’t dedicate a large budget, you need a logo designed, at a minimum. Logo designs vary in price depending on whether you’re working with a freelancer or an agency. But you can also use many logo design service apps like www.99designs.com or www.freelancer.com and get a cheaper option.
Once you have a logo, we suggest you use a template that matches your branding or something that can be modified to fit your new logo and start to feel like your brand. This is always a great option to begin with, and can get you off-the-ground running and save you a lot of time and effort.
The UI and UX you design for your app can significantly affect the delivery time and the development cost. A simple form-based app with a basic design and no animations will be quicker and cheaper to develop. A highly interactive and animated app will be more expensive.
There are also two facets to consider when discussing UI/UX: the cost of the creation of those original designs, and the implementation of those designs.
Those designs will be created by a graphic designer or UI and UX designer. The implementation of those designs will be developed by your app development team.
You won’t want to develop everything your app does. It is best to leverage external services to get the needed functionality. If you don’t follow this model, you could set yourself up for multiple multi-year projects.
Why develop your own AI Image Recognition algorithm when you can leverage Aws or Google or Azures for a fraction of the cost?
There are now more services than ever. It is easy to provide some exciting technology into your application like:
What’s the last thing you want when you deploy your software? No one is using it!
All systems should be easy to use. However, many users still need training and education. Some users can figure it out independently. But, you need to spend time developing supporting material and training.
There are various models you can follow for training. We’ve conducted direct user training with the handful of people using a system and training Key Account Managers or a Regional Manager who then train the staff beneath them.
To be able to support the training and provide further assistance, you need to have supporting material such as user guides, videos, how-to, support tickets etc. See our articles on What is Software Support?
App Development is complex and time-consuming. Every feature you want to add to your app must be designed, engineered, developed and tested. A great team will have processes in place to ensure this flow is managed well and the delivered app works as expected.
Each screen that is added to the app increases the time and cost as there are interactions and APIs and designs that need to be developed to deliver a working screen.
It isn’t more expensive to build an iPhone app or Android app. The costs to build either are comparable.
If you’re building a native app on one platform and you want to have your app available on the other platform, then, you will need double the budget as no code can be shared between the two platforms. Only the learnings and overall design can be shared between the teams.
If you do want to reduce the cost of your build when releasing an app on an iPhone or Android device, consider using cross-platform tools such as React-Native or even a hybrid app if it’s suitable.
The only reason an iPhone app is more expensive is the ongoing yearly developer licence of USD 99 compared to Android’s once-off USD 25 fee.
To monetise your app, you will need either sell your app, sell a subscription within your app, or have in-app purchases, The way users pay for these is through their Apple or Google account on the App Store or Google Play Store. As both Apple and Google provide the infrastructure for the distribution of your app as well as facilitate the payments for you, they do take fees for all purchases made by users associated with your app.
Apple charges a 30% fee on purchases through the app store. If you’re a small business that has earned less than one million in proceeds in the previous 12 months, then, the fee is reduced to 15% see [Apple announces App Store Small Business Program – Apple]
Fees on Google Play as of January 1, 2022, are equivalent to:
I like to think of it as comparing apples to oranges. It is very difficult to compare a quote for a custom app development when you haven’t spent time with each party to identify and design your app.
Every app is different and contains different features UI and UX. As developers, we can only provide you with rough ballpark budgets as we use our experience with comparable apps. Without spending the required amount of time to understand your idea, help you ideate, and discuss features and possibilities, it is difficult to provide an accurate cost.
The cost varies so much because of several factors. After a quick meeting, there is only so much information that can be used to estimate a fixed cost. If you’re asking for a quote without going through a proven process like DevReady then all your quotes could be different.
The same information will not be shared in all discussions. Each developer will have different interpretations and questions.
We’ve created a video talking about this topic here Stop asking for quotes | App Developer Melbourne – iPhone Android Mobile (aerion.com.au)
I believe it is true, that you do get what you pay for. This applies in the world of app development as well.
The cheapest quote is generally provided by overseas teams or teams that haven’t spent enough time understanding your requirements. They over-promise and underdeliver. We’ve seen this happen many times before and have had to step in and rescue numerous projects when the cheapest option didn’t work.
A quote that a client repeated to us from the “Cheapest Option” after he came to us to rescue the project, which has stuck with me, was “You may find better developers, but you won’t find cheaper ones.” This sums it all up, really.
You shouldn’t be looking for the cheapest quote. Instead, look for a team that you can work with. Developing an app is about a relationship between yourself and the team. If this doesn’t work it doesn’t matter how cheap the quote is. You won’t get what you want.
There are several approaches you can tak to reduce your app development cost. However, all the approaches require you to compromise on your dream. You could:
These three methods will require some sort of compromise on how your app looks and functions.
The best way to reduce the cost is to develop your MVP first and ensure that the value provided by your app is what users want. Then you can incrementally add new features and UI/UX polish over time.
The best way to build an app for free is to learn how to code.
It doesn’t matter if you want to build a web app or a mobile app on iOS or Android, you can learn to code and build it yourself.
However, this method will require a significant timeframe as you need to learn the basics of programming and then understand how to design and develop an actual app before you even start to build one.